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Somali Authorities Make Urban Resilience a Priority

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Somalia’s economic potential is well-known: it has the longest coastline in mainland Africa, a thriving private sector, a young labor force and untapped natural wealth.
Moreover, members of the Somali diaspora are returning to Somalia with much-needed capital for growth and development.

But what will this potential amount to if urban areas are unable to deal with stresses and shocks related to drought, floods and insecurity? Urban resilience is the ability of communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow, regardless of the chronic stresses and acute shocks they may experience. How well does this description reflect Somali cities?

That question became pressing in the first half of 2017, where Somalia faced its worst drought in decades. Over half the population – an estimated 6.7 million people – were in need of humanitarian assistance and recovery support. Over 680’000 people were displaced in the same time period, most of whom were displaced from rural to urban areas.

The vulnerability of the urban poor escalated due to pressure from urbanization, the competition for scarce resources, and weak governance structures.

Confronted by these challenges, Somali authorities responded with the support of the World Bank through the Somali Urban Investment Planning Project (SUIPP). Local governments have taken the lead in identifying select urban investments that can help improve urban resilience in their respective cities.
The project assesses the feasibility and prepares preliminary designs for these prioritized selected urban investments and also helps prepare municipalities to oversee their construction by building procurement, financial management capacities. Administered by the World Bank through the Multi-Partner Fund (MPF), SUIPP increases the ability of local Somali authorities to prepare and implement urban development projects.

SUIPP prepares the ground for a proposed larger scale, World Bank supported infrastructure project. Once underway, this larger project, named the Somali Urban Resilience and Recovery (SURR) project, will signal the importance of supporting urban resilience, and places local authorities, including BRA, in the forefront of the urban agenda. SURR would also create jobs by financing basic rehabilitation of infrastructure.

The Benadir Regional Administration (BRA), the local authority that governs the capital and implements SUIPP, has made the urban agenda their priority.
Focusing on community road rehabilitation, BRA has completed feasibility studies, preliminary designs, and environment and social safeguards studies for the rehabilitation of community roads to improve transport and transit efficiencies across the 17 districts. The roads to be rehabilitated have been selected by the districts themselves through a consultative process. The road rehabilitation will provide much needed short term labor opportunities for the poor and marginalized within Mogadishu, many of whom are internally displaced.

Inclusive Urban Development

Mogadishu is one of the fastest urbanizing cities in the world, largely driven by its improving security situation, economic prospects and displacement. The recent Somalia Economic Update (SEU) showed that 70% of Somalia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is urban-based. It also concluded that resilience to recurring natural hazards requires considerable, longer-term investment in urban livelihoods, services and infrastructure. Urban sector development is an important factor in development given its potential to enhance economic productivity, reduce human vulnerability and build the capacity of local authorities, including BRA.

Evidence indicates that infrastructure development projects can have social, human and economic impacts and outcomes for targeted communities.

Infrastructure development furthermore can have different impacts and outcomes on men and women, influencing access to services and economic opportunities, resource allocations, and participation in community decision-making. The socio-economic impact study informs larger scale infrastructure investments to ensure they have an equitable impact to all community groups.

Omar Hussein, the project lead from BRA, emphasizes the need of inclusive urban development. “We don’t implement anything unless every affected stakeholder is involved in decision-making. We have to consult professional groups, women, youth, religious leaders and other affected groups to fully scope the urban development needs in Mogadishu. These are the groups that selected the roads to be rehabilitated within their district”.

Preparing for recurrent natural hazards is also crucial, as Mogadishu is the premier destination for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Improving infrastructure and retrofitting key roads to improve connectivity across districts and water infrastructure will increase the capacity of societies to react and recover from hazards.

Through SUIPP, BRA has clearly mapped the strategic planning capacity, technical and operational capacity, fiduciary systems, transparency and accountability mechanisms, and environmental and social management. With this important groundwork in place, Somalia’s urban zones are setting the stage to foster greater stability through urban investments.

Country Ownership

Since the World Bank’s reengagement in 2013, Somali authorities have been implementing Bank-funded projects. Recognizing that the State has the primary role to reduce disaster risk, the Government stresses urban development as a strategic priority across Somalia. Working through country-systems also increases the capability of Somali authorities to design, implement and own urban development projects

The World Bank Group, through the Multi-Partner Fund, supports a range of state-building initiatives in Somalia, most of which are implemented by the Federal Government of Somalia and its regional counterparts. Examples include the Public Financial Management (PFM) Reform Project, which provides digital systems for transparent financial management, and the Special Financing Facility for Local Development (SFF-LD), which supports construction of infrastructure in Somalia through the Ministry of Finance.

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Somali News

US-backed Somalia commandos kill 4 al-Shabab extremists

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali and U.S. commandos stormed a camp for al-Shabab extremist fighters in an overnight raid, killing at least four of the fighters and rescuing child conscripts, a Somali intelligence official said Friday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said special forces raided the camp in Jame’o village in Middle Shabelle region. A local commander was among those killed, he said.

A second official confirmed the raid, which was carried out with the support of helicopters that later evacuated the young recruits.

Human Rights Watch earlier in the week accused al-Shabab of the forced recruitment of hundreds of children in recent months. The recruitment of children is a long-standing practice of the al-Qaida-linked group which faces growing military pressure across south and central Somalia.

It was not immediately clear how many children were rescued during the overnight raid.

Also on Friday, the U.S. military said it had carried out an airstrike in Somalia that killed four members of the al-Shabab extremist group.

A statement from the U.S. Africa Command said the strike was carried out Thursday about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of the port city of Kismayo. The statement said no civilians were killed.

The U.S. military carried out more than 30 drone strikes last year in the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation after President Donald Trump approved expanded military efforts against al-Shabab.

The extremist group was blamed for the October truck bombing in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, that killed 512 people. Thursday’s U.S. airstrike was the first since one early this month that killed two al-Shabab extremists and destroyed a vehicle carrying explosives, “preventing it from being used against the people in Mogadishu.”

Last year, Somalia’s Somali-American president vowed that his government would drive the extremist group out of the country.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Briefing Room

UPDATE: Somali authorities say troops rescue 32 children from “terrorist school”

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MOGADISHU, Jan 19 (Reuters) – Somali authorities said troops stormed a school run by al Shabaab on Thursday night and rescued 32 children who had been taken as recruits by the Islamist militant group.

“The 32 children are safe and the government is looking after them. It is unfortunate that terrorists are recruiting children to their twisted ideology,” Abdirahman Omar Osman, information minister for the Somali federal government, told Reuters on Friday.

“It showed how desperate the terrorists are, as they are losing the war and people are rejecting terror.”

Al Shabaab said government forces, accompanied by drones, had attacked the school in Middle Shabelle region. It said four children and a teacher were killed.

The Somali government said no children were killed in the rescue.

“They kidnapped the rest of the students,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military spokesman.

“Human Rights Watch is responsible for the deaths of the students and their teacher because it pointed fingers at them,” he added.

In a report this week, the New York-based rights group said that since September 2017, al Shabaab had ordered village elders, teachers in Islamic religious schools, and rural communities to hand over hundreds of children as young as eight.

The U.S. Africa Command said it had carried out an air strike on Thursday against al Shabaab targets 50 km (30 miles) northwest of Somalia’s port city of Kismayo, killing four militants. U.S. forces regularly launch such aerial assaults.

The al Shabaab militia, linked to al Qaeda, is fighting to topple the U.N.-backed Somali government and establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.

Somalia has been plagued by conflict since the early 1990s, when clan-based warlords overthrew authoritarian ruler Mohamed Siad Barre then turned on each other.

In recent years, regional administrations headed by the Mogadishu-based federal government have emerged, and African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali troops have gradually clawed back territory from the Islamist insurgents.

(Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Andrew Roche)

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Somali News

Somali Army Reports Killing 7 al-Shabab Militants

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The Somalia national army killed at least seven al-Shabab militants Thursday and destroyed their base during an operation in southern Somalia, officials and residents said.

Somali army General Ismail Sahardid, the 43rd Infantry Division commander, told VOA Somali that the forces took control of Bar-Sanguni town, 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of the coastal city of Kismayo.

“Our army launched a surprise attack on the militants’ hideouts late Wednesday and continued pursing them since the early hours of Thursday,” Sahardid said. “During the operation we killed seven of the militants, including local leaders of al-Shabab’s Amniyat unit, responsible for the group’s intelligence.”

The general said that despite initial resistance, his forces destroyed several of the militants’ bases and vehicles they have been using to transport fighters, and they recovered ammunition.

“We have inflicted heavy military losses on them and captured two of their vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft machine guns,” Sahardid said.

Bar-Sanguni residents who spoke to VOA Somali on condition of anonymity said they heard explosions as government soldiers engaged in a gunbattle with the militants for several hours early Thursday.

“It was around just before dawn Thursday morning when the Somali army entered the town. We first heard a fierce exchange of heavy gunfire and explosions,” one resident said.

“As the day wore on, we saw government soldiers taking strategic positions in the town and searching the al-Shabab military bases, with seven dead bodies of the militants lying in the streets,” another resident said.

Bar-Sanguni, under al-Shabab control for many years, is where the militant group has been organizing guerrilla attacks against government soldiers and Kenyan troops serving under the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM) in Jubaland state.

Tax on residents

Sahardid said the militants in this area have been imposing zakat, or a tax, on the local population.

“We have freed the local civilians who have been suffering under the militants’ harsh control, where they have been extorting their money and their livestock through what they call zakat,” said Sahardid.

The operation came as Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and Michael Keating, U.N. special representative for Somalia, hailed the completion of a power-sharing agreement signed in December between Galmudug state and the Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a.

Ahlu Sunna is a moderate group that was founded to promote Sufi Islam in Somalia, which decided years ago to take up arms against the radical al-Shabab group, which is believed to be linked al-Qaida.

In an event held Thursday in the central Somali town of Dhuusa Marreeb — attended by Somalia federal and regional leaders and foreign diplomats — Galmudug state President Ahmed Duale Ghelle “Xaaf” and Ahlu Sunna leader Sheikh Shakir vowed to join forces in the fight against al-Shabab.

Under the power-sharing agreement, Sheikh Shakir will be the executive leader of Galmudug state.

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